Nolan (my youngest)

January 23, 2021

Sketch of Nolan

OMG that hair.

It’s the first thing anybody sees when Nolan totters into a room. It’s always a mess; cameras autofocus on it; fingers itch to caress it; women swoon. Seriously, my wife refuses to ever cut it for fear the curls won’t come back.

But good lord is it a PITA to sketch. I think I spent more time on those curls than on all my other sketches combined. I have no idea how many times I redid it, trying different techniques in attempt to capture the messiness, the texture, and the sheer depth.

At least it was a learning experience.

My process for this one was pretty much the same as for Fiona, except a whole lot more time. I copied the photo into a half-opacity layer and used it to learn from my mistakes, not for tracing… … okay, okay, only a little for tracing, but only after I’d redrawn the same damn feature at least a couple dozen times.

Some thoughts:

  • I was only a little kidding about the tracing thing. I did, in fact, re-sketch each feature a bunch of times. Problem is, when you’re dealing with the face, very small differences in the shape of, say, the mouth, results in a completely different expression. This wouldn’t matter as much if I didn’t have a very specific expression I wanted to recreate. Shown just the sketch, my family would say it looks good. But place it next to the reference photo and all of a sudden it looks very wrong.
  • Did you know that when a person smiles, their mouth moves upward, closer to their nose? If you don’t do that, it looks like a grimace. Just saying.
  • Shadows, shadows, shadows. Never draw the shape of a thing; draw the shadows it casts. Unless you’re trying to get the features right. Then draw the outline, then draw the shadows, then erase the outline. Maybe, when I get better, I’ll be able to start with the shadows. I am not there yet.
  • Wanna hear a guilty cheat? About halfway through, I realized that even in my attempts to focus on the shadows, I was still sketching everything too light. I suppose I could have gone back, and darkened the shadows by hand. Instead, I duplicated the layer and merged it back with the original. It worked great. I regret nothing.
  • His face has actual shadows not just designed to show features, but to be real shadows. This added a sense of realism I haven’t achieved before.
  • The lips came out fantastic. It only took about a hundred tries.
  • Did you know Procreate has a hair brush? Did you know it has several? Instead of drawing each individual hair, you brush in a bunch of them at once. It’s fantastic.
  • Speaking of, the hair went through several phases: a messy sketch that looked less like Nolan’s hair, and more like Nolan sketched it himself; a blend of that mess that hardly looked better; and attempt to create depth, less said about that the better; a sudden discovery of the hair brush; a whole lot of texture without depth; depth without shadows which just looked weird; shadows and depth; oh shit, I need to add shadows to the forehead; a bunch of erasing to make highlights; and finally I give up.
  • Someone told me they thought I took a picture of a sculpture. I chose to take that as a compliment.
  • Believe it or not, his hair is way messier than than this, but I’m emotionally incapable of spending that much effort.
  • See those bags under his eyes? Very, very small changes to those have a drastic affect on expression.
  • His ear looks like it’s growing a massive tuft of hair from it but nobody’s noticed 1.
  • Teeth are really important. No matter how well you get the mouth shape right, it will never look right unless you get the teeth right.

All together, I am very pleased with how this one came out. I feel like it’s a new standard for me, and I can only hope all my subsequent sketches will come out this good.

I have no idea how long it took. Let’s just say a long time. I sketched it over the holidays, so I had a lot of spare time while the kids were actively fighting over their new toys.

Full Image

Sketch Album

  1. Or they don’t want to say, which is fine; I don’t want to fix it.